notesbynora

Walking by Faith Alone

Sister Secrets…

with 3 comments


It has almost been a year – a year of wanting to call her as I’m driving home from the grocery store. A year of listening to 70s Love Songs because we always did. A year of sitting on my porch because she loved to. A year of trying desperately to hang on to the sound of her voice.

I used to see people who’d lost someone close to them. On the outside they looked good. Life continued – as it should; I just never understood until now what was on the inside. What was layering the smiles, the glossy cover, the above the surface smoothness.

For awhile I sent her texts. Somehow I thought she’d answer. I called her number hoping to hear the Verizon Ring-Back Tone she insisted upon hanging onto even when no one else still had it. Now, I only hear that the number has been changed or disconnected. And I feel disconnected and very much changed. Little did I know how July 21, 2020, the day she left Earth for Heaven, would alter my universe.

We held eachothers secrets – some so deep and painful – some mischievous – some so unbelievably incredible “we actually got away with it” kind of secrets. It is hard for me to fathom, when I am gone, there is no one left to tell our stories. They say confession is good for the soul – well, maybe it is.

Renie lived in New York for a brief period in her life. Her departure for me was devastating, and I saved every dime I earned waiting for the opportunity to go and visit her. I loved how the city fit her; the way she moved on the sidewalk, took the subway, and raised her hand to hail a cab. New York and my sister blended together smoothly. She could be anyone she wanted to be in the noise and traffic and flow of people. The summer I visited her was one Renie and I would remember for a lifetime, but only between “us”.

It was the summer I became Madeline Sims.

For most of those close to me, Madeline Sims was simply a name I liked. But, the truth lies somewhere, very oddly, in between an invitation, black limousine, and a borrowed teal dress with silver stilettos. We were where we weren’t supposed to be – an opening line to most of our “secret” stories.

Renie loved to mingle with the rich and famous. She had a knack for blending in at just the right moment. We loved playing the part of other people and when the tall, red-haired passenger exited First Class that day, destiny took hold. She had left inadvertently the invitation in the pocket of the seat in front of her. I arrived in New York the day my sister returned from this flight as a flight attendant.

“By Invitation Only” – with the words Madeline Sims written in calligraphy across the front of the envelope. There was never a doubt in my mind we’d be going. I knew my sister. She knew this would be an affair to remember. (Oh! How right she was).

She’d ordered a black limo – I borrowed a stunning tulle ball gown from a friend in her building with an off the shoulders neckline, empire waist, and silver jeweled stilettos. Renie wore an equisite black velvet fitted gown with rhinestone trim with slits on both sides.

The doors of the sleek, black ride were opened for us and we nervously stepped inside. “You are Madeline Sims, ” she affirmed.

“No. You need to be her!” I whined, in a typically little sister way, even though I was nearly 20.

“I’m going to be me. What if I meet the man of my dreams? You’re returning to Georgia,” she explained.

It made sense. “OK – fine,” I echoed.

The address directed us to West End Avenue where we were escorted to the Penthouse and awed by a view one cannot describe in words. The smells, the food, the people, the click of high heels across the stunning marbled floors. No one questioned our existence – the invitation gave us access to a story-book lifestyle, people we’d seen in magazines, a few actors, and people we could only imagine their identity.

A young handsome Italian looking man showed me the magnificent skylight while Renie talked with a famous singer on the terrace. There were hor d’oeuvres, smiles, light conversation, until I caught her eye. She politely excused herself, nodding at me to follow. “You’re a call girl,” she whispered, leading me to the kitchen towards an outside door.

“I’m a what?” I questioned.

“Time to exit,” she said, half panicked and half laughing.

By the time we exited the building, hailed a cab, and were bumper-to-bumper in the center of the city, she laughed – a belly chuckle, nothing can stop it kind of laugh.

“Well, it explains why I have about 4 $100 dollar bills shoved in the front of my dress!”

“What?” she stopped, gazing at me.

“Just kidding!” I teased and took her hand.

“Between you and me, Madeline!” she laughed.

“Between you and me. Always,” I affirmed.

Memories are gifts we give to one another – smells, sounds, pictures which don’t really mean anything until they suddenly do. Late at night when my sister couldn’t sleep because of the brain tumor, I would tell her the stories only she and I knew. She’d lost most of her language, but she could still laugh. I told her we’d do them again some day when she was better.

I know your life is busy – you are busy just getting through so you can be here or there – but today, just stop. Stop and make memories with the people you love. Don’t waste all your time trying to get some place in order to be happy – it will never come! Appreciate where you are today. Celebrate the people you are with. Stop longing for something more – Your life is now – LIVE IT!

Written by Nora Hatchett Almazan

June 28, 2021 at 2:05 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I loved this. I know you miss her so much 🙏

    Judy maffett

    June 28, 2021 at 4:26 pm

  2. Beautiful story! Beautiful words with soooo much truth! ❤️

    Angelia Baker

    June 28, 2021 at 8:59 pm

  3. This is both beautiful and heartbreaking. I moved to Dublin near the end of 6th grade. It was just a short time later that I lost my only sister to leukemia. A couple of the girls who’d known her just briefly made a special effort to show kindness to me and I’ve always remembered that. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. May God bless you and bring you comfort.

    Lisa Cole

    July 4, 2021 at 9:13 pm


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